The Amazing Benefits of Baby Massage


Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

 The Amazing Benefits of Baby Massage

Lots of parents ask us about baby massage so we have asked Lorna Kerins, Perinatal and Child Development Researcher for some information for our parents.

Can I have a hold? is a question that new mothers are so often asked by friends and family. It seems that our desire to touch, stroke and cuddle a baby may actually be a hard-wired response that has an evolutionary explanation. ! Research reveals that the nurturing touch of babies and loving communication stimulates their development in many different ways. According to Frederick Leboyer, author of Loving Hands: “Being touched and caressed, being massaged, is food for the infant; food as necessary as minerals, vitamins, and proteins”

So what kind of proven benefits does baby massage have for healthy development?!  The following are some good reasons to start massaging your baby!

Physical development:

Dr Marshall Klaus, a paediatrician, a neonatologist and a professor at the University of California in San Francisco says that “Infant massage is very useful in calming infants and enhancing growth“!  The bottom line is that babies, including premature babies, develop better if massaged regularly. Proven benefits include:

  • Muscular development and growth,
  • Coordination and balance
  • Hormonal and immune system
  • Circulatory and digestive system

If your baby is suffering from gas, colic, and congestion or is having difficulty sleeping, massage can help relieve these conditions. One of the ways it does this is by reducing the stress hormone, cortisol in the baby’s system!  This then reduces muscular tension and stress and helps baby relax. With less crying, hopefully mum and/or dad can relax too!

Social-emotional development:

Baby massage involves using a reassuring tone of voice, making good eye contact, paying careful, attention to your baby’s cues, and touching him/her in a safe, predictable way!  This helps your baby to develop:-

  • Feelings of being respected and cared for
  • Self-love and acceptance
  • Self confidence and trust

Making one-to-one time to massage baby also strengthens the emotional bond between parent-baby and results in what psychologists call ג€˜secure attachment’ between baby and caregiver. This gives baby the ability to feel safe and loved in the world, and feel confident about their abilities and to form healthy relationships later in life. This emotional security is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your child!

Cognitive development

Massage, eye contact and responsive communication is amazing for baby’s brain development as it sparks baby’s brain neurons to grow and branch out to meet other neurons!  This is brain growth at its best and results in babies include:-

  • Enhanced ability to learn
  • Improved concentration
  • Development of self- regulation
  • Better language ability

A special note to mums and dads is that it’s important to talk and sing to your baby as you massage because all of the neural circuits are in place in baby’s brain ג€“ but they need you to communicate with them to activate them!!  Massage time offers the perfect opportunity for you to sing nursery rhymes, chat with your baby and to understand and encourage their communication.

How to start baby massage?

If you want to try basic massage at home, then try the following steps:

  1. Lay baby down in nappy on a comfortable safe surface at a time that isn’t just before/after feeding.
  2. Find some edible oil (olive, rapeseed) and warm it in your hands
  3. Show baby your open hands and say something like ג€˜Can I massage you now’?
  4. Begin to stroke the legs from thighs down to the tips of the toes
  5. Watch carefully how your baby reacts ג€“ stop and cuddle if he/she doesn’t like it!
  6. Then stroke from the shoulders down the arm to the fingers
  7. Gently circle the chest from centre out to shoulders
  8. Turn baby on tummy and stroke from top of shoulders downwards

As you and baby get more comfortable, massages can be longer but this is a great start!

 

How to learn more?

There’s so much more that you can learn about baby massage, and there’s some great books, websites and DVDs available that will instruct you through tried and tested techniques that will have great benefit for baby.

However it’s even better if you could join an infant massage group near you or to have a few individual sessions with a trained baby massage teacher to teach you some useful routines for use with your baby.

 

Happy baby massaging to all our parents!

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